From the September 1998 issue of Entrepreneur

Last year, while experts nationwide continued to scramble to fix outdated computer systems that can't recognize dates after December 31, 1999, minority business advocate Mannie Lopes decided that he, too, wanted in on the action.

So he created Year 2000 Alliance LLC in Laurel, Maryland. The company now plays a critical role in the Y2K conversion operation--and it promotes women- and minority-owned high-tech and telecommunications businesses in the process.

The alliance helps its members land private-sector and government contracts. With help from firms like Kym Kennedy's The Computer Training Company in Richmond, Virginia, alliance members learn to solve Y2K problems for other companies. To date, the Alliance's women-owned ventures have already garnered contracts totaling $24 million. Lopes expects women- and minority-owned businesses' contract work to reach $350 million by December 31, 2001.

Lopes' efforts date back to the 1996 White House Conference on Small Business, where he was a delegate and the national coordinator for minority firms. "We bonded at the conference, and I told [the minority- and women-owned firms] I was going to keep that alliance together forever," he remembers.

Today, close to 200 firms are Alliance members. "The crème-de-la-crème of women- and minority-owned tech firms are in this Alliance, and the ones I don't have are joining as we speak," Lopes says.

For now, projections say the Y2K problem will be resolved by 2002, but Lopes believes 2005 is a more realistic date. The alliance should stay strong beyond that time, though, as Lopes plans to focus on other opportunities in the high-tech field. To find out whether or not you qualify to become a Year 2000 Alliance member, call (301) 622-5460.

Maiden Voyage

Remembering Madame C.J. Walker

Ninety-two years ago, Sarah Breedlove--better known as Madame C.J. Walker--put her first hair-care products on the market. Soon her initial investment of $1.50 multiplied into a fortune: She died a millionaire in 1919 at the age of 51. Today, the Guinness Book of World Records salutes her as the "first American woman to become a millionaire solely by her own endeavors."

Born on a cotton plantation in Louisiana to former slaves, Walker was orphaned at age 7, married at 14, and widowed at 20. At 35, her hair started falling out. After saying a prayer to save her hair, she claims she dreamed of the formula behind The Walker System--a line of hair-care products and treatments--which later made her famous.

Madame C.J. Walker Enterprises Inc. is alive and well in Indianapolis, and the company still makes its six original products. Walker's descendants no longer run the company, but her will decreed that the business must always be run by a woman. Says Madame C.J. Walker Enterprises' Joyce Randolph, "We are carrying on her legacy."

What's Your Priority?

A recent survey of women business owners worldwide revealed their top concerns:

(% of women)

100% Maintaining profitability

95% Finding/keeping employees

88% Managing cash flow

86% Government business laws/policies

81% State of the economy

81% Obtaining more training in business management

79% Access to capital

79% Access to technology

Contact Sources

Madame C.J. Walker Enterprises Inc., P.O. Box 18447, Indianapolis, IN 46218, (317) 921-1080

Year 2000 Alliance LLC, Y2KAlliance@lcgnet.com